Bringing dermatology to the Mississippi Delta

Dr. BRODELL's story

 
Video narrated by Robert T. Brodell, MD
Department of Dermatology, University of Mississippi

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Mississippi is an underserved state. We have about 48 dermatologists for 3 million people, and some parts of the state—like the Delta—don't have a dermatologist for about 100 miles. The University of Mississippi’s mission is to serve all Mississippians, so it was clear to me and my colleagues that we needed to do something to meet this need.

We decided that between the 12 of us, we could staff a dermatology clinic once a month—each clinician serving once per year. We approached a local high school that was already staffing a medical clinic in an empty classroom, and asked if our once monthly dermatology clinic could share the space. They were immediately very interested. We were able to galvanize support for the clinic because the need was clearly there.

The clinic is open monthly to anyone; we accept both appointments and walk-ins. Even for Delta residents who have insurance, access to a dermatologist is very difficult because of how far they need to travel to reach a clinic.

We immediately saw the clinic’s impact: we identified a melanoma in a patient who definitely would not have visited a dermatologist and received a diagnosis had we not been there. We saved at least one life. We’ve been able to diagnose, treat, and help manage the care for hundreds of other patients.

Our success has been a springboard for other specialties—other departments at the University have learned from our successes, and found ways to deliver their services to underserved communities as well. In fact, we will also be volunteering at a forthcoming University of Mississippi urgent care center in the Delta to increase our ability to meet patient demand. We will have a dermatologist volunteering there once per month, so now we’ll be in the Delta every two weeks to see patients.

This is incredibly rewarding work for us.  After all, this is why we all went into medicine: to help people.

The Patient's perspective

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It is something like a 180 mile round trip to see the nearest dermatologist. Before the clinic, it would have been very difficult for me to take time off of work to see a dermatologist. But because it’s here, when I noticed a spot on my nose and another on my shoulder after mowing the lawn one day, I made an appointment. Not only did the dermatologist at the clinic diagnose and treat my skin cancers, I now see them on a regular basis and they’ve taught me about other areas of my body to check. I’m very, very thankful. I really don’t think I would have driven far away to have my moles examined.

– Carolyn Newhof, Cary, Mississippi

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